In an appeal to the coveted youth vote in the upcoming presidential elections, MySpace and MTV announced Thursday that they have joined forces for a series of "one-on-one dialogues" with all the major candidates from both political parties--televised and Webcast events in which presidential hopefuls will answer questions from MySpace members and MTV watchers. Formally, it's a collaboration between MySpace's "Impact" political channel and MTV's "Choose or Lose" election effort (which it has been operating since the dinosaur days of the 1992 election), and it's the first collaboration that the News Corp.-owned social networking site has had with the Viacom-owned pop culture conglomerate.
The conversations with individual presidential candidates will be held town-hall style on college campuses, webcast live on the MySpaceTV video platform ( ) and MTV.com, and broadcast later that evening on MTV as well as the MTVU college campus television network.
"These dialogues are not going to be a debate," Ian Rowe, MTV's vice president of strategic partnerships, said in an interview with CNET News.com. "They're going to be one-on-one, unfiltered conversations between a group of young people who are sitting inside a college campus auditorium (and) an audience online (that) will have the ability to submit questions in real-time." Rowe added that this will be a totally interactive experience. "They'll be able to literally respond to what the candidate is actually saying during the conversation. Even if you don't have the opportunity to physically be in the room, you can participate tangibly in the conversation."
MySpace had initially announced its plans to hold presidential town hall events in May, but no further developments were provided at the time. The social network also plans to hold a mock election early in 2008.
The first of the MTV-MySpace dialogues has been confirmed for September 27, with Democratic candidate John Edwards in the key primary state of New Hampshire. Future events will individually involve Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Christopher Dodd, and Bill Richardson; and Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Sam Brownback. The only missing candidate of note is arguably former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican whose surprising second-place finish in the Iowa straw polls suddenly catapulted him into the label of "dark horse."
If the prominence of blogs in the political process was the major digital media development of the 2004 presidential election and the "paper trail" of YouTube videos was what marked the 2006 midterms (recall former Sen. George Allen's "macaca moment"), it appears that "interactive" conversations with presidential candidates, thanks to new media platforms, are coming to define the '08 campaign. Earlier this summer, CNN and YouTube collaborated on a formal Democratic debate in which YouTube users could submit video questions in advance of the event. In the MTV-MySpace "dialogues," these questions may be submitted live--through either the MySpaceIM instant messaging platform, e-mail, or text messaging.
"We're offering participation through all the tools of new media," said Jeff Berman, MySpace's general manager of video operations. Representatives from both companies hinted that further details will become available throughout the next few weeks.